scott-sneddonScott Sneddon, Senior Director of SDN and Virtualisation at Juniper Networks, examines the networking challenges and opportunities presented by emerging cloud technologies…

The emergence of cloud technologies, virtualization, containers and the Internet of Things (IoT), have brought with them unique architectural challenges. Enterprises are running application workloads across many kinds of private and public clouds, while virtualization, containers and IoT are also driving requirements for dynamic, scalable networking environments.

Businesses must deliver a host of innovative technologies to address these architectural hurdles, but common across all of these trends is the need to automate traditionally manual network provisioning and management tasks.

Adapting to a new automation paradigm, using common tools and APIs will help tighten network integration and cloud and application practices. This change in approach will also allow businesses to address organizational silos, bringing together Network Operations, Cloud Operations and Application teams into one true end-to-end DevOps structure.

SDN and NFV

As companies migrate to cloud architectures, a quick realization ensues that the networking approach needs to be very different from traditional set-ups. Software-defined networking (SDN) is a great fit for solving challenges around providing scalable and dynamic networking services for cloud environments. The technology will continue to improve its ability to solve these problems, making cloud and data centers more powerful and operationally seamless.

We are seeing a very strong trend towards SDN solutions which integrate with traditional WAN technologies using protocols like BGP and MPLS

Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) can also be considered for moving network functions, which were traditionally performed by purpose-built hardware, into virtualized environments running as applications on top of cloud infrastructure.

As telcos and enterprises begin to adopt NFV, the first thing they need to do is build a cloud to run these virtualized network functions. This drives the need for NFV ‘clouds’ to adopt SDN in order to connect these functions together. In effect, SDN provides the plumbing for virtualized functions running as NFV cloud applications.

Recently, there has been a growing interest around the adoption of Cloud CPE and SD-WAN as use cases for NFV. Businesses are looking to virtualize the functions that traditionally ran on their customer premise equipment (CPE) and are placing them within ‘hybrid’ cloud applications running within a mixed environment – spanning branch offices, telco clouds and enterprise data centers.

In these cases, there is a requirement for SDN solutions to expand beyond the data center and to start integrating with the WAN and the CPE.

Today, we are seeing a very strong trend towards SDN solutions which integrate with traditional WAN technologies using protocols like BGP and MPLS. In the future, there will be more demand for hybrid environments where SDN solutions need to tie together with telco NFV clouds, enterprise private clouds, container-based application clouds, and public clouds across a seamless and cohesive platform.

Open source development

In the old world of telecom networking, standards bodies like the IETF and IEEE defined the technologies and products released by the vendor community. Large companies were the primary contributors to those standards. While there is still a need for standards bodies, open source communities like OpenStack are where a lot of new de facto standards are being defined.

In this community model, large companies and vendors still have an influence, but individual contributors, academia, and small startups can also have a significant impact. An individual developer can contribute code for a new feature, and a small startup can implement a new business based on that feature much more rapidly than was ever possible in the past.

This new community approach is very exciting, and as we progress with future networking technologies we must embrace it.